If you're interested in working in medicine and have a passion for helping those in need, then a career as a paramedic may be right for you. Not only can working as a paramedic be highly rewarding, but the demand for skilled paramedics is also on the rise nationwide. In fact, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for EMTs and paramedics is expected to grow 5 percent between 2022 and 2032 alone.
So, what exactly does it take to become a paramedic, and how can you choose the paramedic program that's suitable for you? Similarly, what can you expect from a formal paramedic education? By having a better understanding of what this field entails, you can make a more confident career choice.
What Is a Paramedic?
First, understand what a paramedic is and what kind of work they do. A paramedic is a skilled professional who has been trained to provide expert medical care and emergency medical services. Typically, paramedics are the first (or among the first) responders to a scene where a traumatic injury or medical emergency has occurred.
Oftentimes, paramedics are confused with emergency medical technicians (EMTs) because they both administer first aid and potentially life-saving treatment as first responders. However, it is worth noting that paramedics generally receive more advanced training than EMTs and may specialize in emergency medicine.
What Does a Paramedic Do?
The day-to-day work of a paramedic can vary significantly; no two days are exactly alike. Usually, paramedics work as part of a rescue team, responding to emergencies in ambulances, helicopters, or other rescue vehicles. They may respond and provide aid to those involved in car accidents, in-home medical emergencies, and just about any other scenario you can imagine.
Roles and Responsibilities
Upon arriving at an emergency medical scene, the responsibilities and duties of a paramedic will depend on the exact emergency and patients' needs. Some examples of the types of work paramedics may do on the job include:
- Administering medication as needed
- Setting up IVs
- Providing first aid (such as CPR or other life support)
- Treating wounds
- Delivering babies
- Providing emergency injections
- Coordinating with other medical professionals on-scene
- Making critical, split-second decisions
- Writing patient care reports and documenting events on a scene
- Transporting patients
Choosing a Paramedicine Program
As you can probably imagine, the skills needed to work as a paramedic aren't something that can be learned overnight. Instead, most paramedics spend at least a few years in school to receive formal education and training to do their jobs confidently.
While the exact education requirements to become a paramedic may vary by state, most require a minimum of a high school diploma in addition to EMT certification, more than 1,000 hours of training, and the passing of a state licensure exam.
Those wishing to gain the highest quality education and enter the field with the necessary skills to deliver excellent care may pursue a paramedicine degree. A bachelor's degree in paramedicine can prepare students for successful and thriving careers in this field while helping them gain the formal training hours needed to work in paramedicine.
If you're thinking about enrolling in a paramedicine degree program, the first thing to keep in mind is that not all programs are created equal. To find the best degree program for your needs, there are a few factors to consider as you explore your options.
Costs and Expenses
It's no secret that degree programs can be expensive. In fact, the average cost of a bachelor's degree in the U.S. now hovers just above $36,000 per year, according to the Education Data Initiative. With this in mind, you'll want to consider the costs that would be associated with a paramedicine program before you apply.
Specifically, how many credit hours does the program comprise, and how much will you need to pay per credit hour? Similarly, account for additional costs such as registration fees, technology fees, books, and related expenses—as well as any financial aid for which you may qualify.
Courses and Curriculum
Additionally, familiarize yourself with the courses and curriculum a given program offers before you apply or enroll. In general, bachelor's degree programs in paramedicine consist of about 120 credit hours, but the particular courses vary. Some examples of courses that can be useful in a paramedicine career include:
- Medical Terminology
- Foundations of Public Health
- Human Anatomy & Physiology
Take the time to understand the exact program of study a school offers to get a feel for whether it is right for you. If you have previous classroom experience in the field, you should see if any of those credits will transfer.
Because paramedics typically need about 1,000 hours of hands-on clinical training before they can get certified, you should also find out what kind of practical training you'll receive as part of your program. In some cases, formal degree programs have clinical hours built into their curriculums, allowing students the opportunity to gain valuable experience working in an emergency department, the back of an ambulance, or another supervised setting where their medical knowledge is put to the test.
Choosing a program with built-in training is an excellent way to expedite the process of getting certified and working in the field, so be sure to look into this as you explore your options.
Job and Career Outlook
Last but not least, look at the job outlook for paramedicine graduates from the particular program you're considering. Some schools will advertise the job placement rates of their recent graduates on their program websites. If not, you could always reach out to the program director to ask for this information. A program with promising job placement statistics can give you some additional confidence and peace of mind in your decision.
What to Expect from a Paramedicine Program
Once you've done your research and selected a paramedicine degree program, it's important to complete all the application requirements. When you are admitted, you may be wondering what to expect from the program itself—especially in terms of the skills and knowledge you'll acquire, specific requirements for your degree, and other details about the experience.
Skills and Knowledge
During your program, you will complete courses on the medical knowledge, skills, and terminology needed to respond to emergencies and provide quality care to patients in the field. This includes skills and concepts related to administering medications, understanding cardiology, and treating wounds. the numerous technical skills you'll need as a paramedic, you also must develop time management skills and the ability to make critical decisions under pressure. Other "soft" skills that will come in handy as you work through your paramedicine program and in the field include strong communication, leadership, and stress management.
The exact requirements to receive your paramedicine degree will vary depending on your school and program. Because different states have different certification requirements for becoming a paramedic, you'll want to check with your school to find out precisely what you need in order to graduate with your degree and get certified to start working.
Bachelor's degree programs in paramedicine usually consist of about 120 credit hours. For most full-time students, this means the program takes about four years to complete. If you have transfer credits from a previous program (like an associate degree program), however, you might be able to complete your degree in as little as two years.
Consider, too, whether you need previous experience or certification in order to enroll in a paramedicine program. It is not uncommon for programs to require that applicants be certified as EMTs and have some work experience under their belts before they start their formal schooling.
You'll need to find out exactly how many clinical hours your state requires to start working as a paramedic, as this can vary greatly from about 600 to 1,200 or more. Ensure the degree program in which you're enrolled will help you meet those training requirements with clinical rotations that provide hands-on experience in the field.
If you already have work experience as an EMT (as many do before they enroll in a paramedic program), then this can be applied to your training requirements, too. However, make sure you're properly tracking and documenting your hours.
These days, it is increasingly common for paramedicine programs to require that applicants carry a current state paramedic or EMT certification/license or military medic training certification. Having this prior experience can give you the foundational knowledge needed to succeed in a paramedicine program.
In addition to these prerequisites, you must find out what other requirements your program of choice may have in place—especially when it comes to your application materials. More than likely, you'll need to send along your college and high school transcripts as well as a copy of your current paramedic or EMT license or other training certification. Depending on the program for which you're applying, you might also need to submit a personal statement, resume, and letter(s) of recommendation.
Embark on Your Journey Today
Working as a paramedic can be a challenging yet rewarding job. At the end of your shift, you can enjoy the satisfaction of knowing you've made a real difference in the lives of your patients while putting potentially life-saving skills to use. And, of course, the right paramedic training program can prepare you for even the hardest days in the field.
Still looking for a great paramedicine program to help take your career to the next level? Lindenwood University Online is proud to offer a Bachelor of Science in Paramedicine that can be completed in as little as two years. This program is offered entirely online, empowering you to develop a well-rounded approach to emergency medical care. Request more information about our program for aspiring paramedics or its global accelerated option today!